Friday, January 21, 2011

A Quest to Get Lost

On Sunday, May 23rd, 2010 the cultural phenomenon and highly addictive science fiction drama Lost ended its run after 125 episodes of David Lynchian worthy mind games, false starts, fake endings, and general nuttiness. It was a polarizing show. If you were into it, then you were obsessed. If you weren't, you were either turned off by the incessant discussion about it among your friends or checked out of the show due to its inability to provide the viewer with the slightest bit of closure.

I never watched Lost; that is, until the last episode.

After six years of hearing my friends theorize and ponder the shows many twists, I knew that I would have to check it out at some point but the procrastination to do so made diving into it already a few seasons deep a daunting task. My wife felt the same way. So, somewhere in season 4, we made a decision to watch the last episode and if we liked it, then we would watch the entire show. This way, we knew how it ended and wouldn't be disappointed in the result. On the other hand, if it was brilliant, then the surprise would be ruined but that was a risk we were willing to take.

We watched the last episode and became entranced. We loved how sweet the show was and the bonds formed between the characters. It seemed like sci-fi with a heart, something that made shows like Star Trek: The Next Generation enjoyable. The creators said that Lost was a love story and from the last episode, it was clear that it was. At the close of the episode, we were pretty (excuse the pun) lost, but we still decided to add season 1 to our netflix queue and go to town.

Some seven months later, we watched the finale this morning and though we knew how it ended, we were very pleased with our decision to wait. Like many great journeys, the end is nice but the quest getting there is the rewarding part. After all, is there anyone out there who would have not watched Empire Strikes Back if they knew that Vader was Luke's dad? Of course not. Generations have latched on to Empire and the whole of Star Wars knowing the entire story and enjoy it just as much as the those who found out about the twist live in theaters. In cases like these, it's about the journey, not the ending. Plus, disappointment is a terrible feeling.

Knowing how Lost ended, we were able to focus on all the plot twists and not worry about how it ends because we knew that...

Jack dies, there is something called the light that keeps the island together, the island is a portal to another place, the dog survives, all the people from the show find love and end up in a Church NOT on the island and move towards the light, and there is another universe in which some of those people are on a plane and escape

Do I still have questions about the show? Oh yeah, absolutely and while I still have some nagging curiosities (Why is Libby in the mental hospital to begin with anyway?), they aren't really that important. The journey of the characters and their development superseded any loose ends or discontinuities within the show. After all, it is just a show. I think that in order to answer all the questions, there would have needed to be a live lecture and Q&A with Ben Linus, Richard, Jacob, and the Man in Black (not the actors, the characters) and that would not have been very exciting, just informative.

Lost reminded me of "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events." The books, not the "unfortunate" movie made from the first three in the series a few years back. The books themselves involved three orphans, a secret society, and a mounting number of double and triple crossing secret agents, codes, and stubborn riddles. When the final book came out, I knew there was no way the author was going to be able to tie up all the many, countless loose ends so he took a novel approach and he tied up hardly any of them.

Instead, he made the book a meditation about paranoia and living in frightening times. Given that the series of books were begun around 9/11 and that, combined with a few choice political digs, suggested it was a statement on the importance of love, stability, and confidence in an unstable world. I feel these are all also at the heart of Lost.

All the characters find true love and gain the stability and self-confidence that they never had off the island. Jacob tells Jack that the survivors of the crash were all lonely and running away from their lives before they crashed on the island. When the show ended, they walked bravely towards the light. They weren't sure what was waiting for them but they trusted in themselves to go towards it, and with their loved ones among them.

The show was laced in Judeo-Christian symbolism. There was the obvious: Jack's father was named Christian Shephard and guided characters in times of need. There were some subtle ones: Jacob was the island's chosen protector; namely, protector from his brother which might as well have been named Esau, though the Lost character was never named. But in the last episode, during a confrontation between Jack and his father, Christian is standing in front of a Church stain glass mirror bearing the signs of the six major religions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism) which suggests that in the end, we all go to the same place, which is a really nice sentiment.

Lost was a great TV show and that is what it was, a TV show. Not a religion or a sacred document, but a really entertaining TV show. After all, seasons 4 and some of season 5 was pretty silly and the entire thing as a whole is completely ridiculous. Still, it must have had something as I watched 125 episodes of it from May until now. Now to quote Marge Simpson, "Let us never speak of it again."